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1 Interpersonal Communication The following is a group paper that will enlighten the reader to understand three important dimensions

of interpersonal communication. This paper will explore the concept of stereotyping and how it impacts interpersonal communication. We will also cover the concept of communication competence. Finally, we will articulate the critical link between emotional expression and interpersonal communication. One important aspect of interpersonal communication deals with how we view others. As adults we try to treat one another as we would like to be treated. While we try to accomplish this, we are often quick to judge a person by their race, sexual orientation, religion, country of origin, and sex. We do this because of the things we have learned to perceive based on assumptions and lack of real research about that group of people. The book, Looking Out Looking In, states that these ignorant assumptions are exaggerated generalizations associated with a categorizing system. Stereotypes may be based on a kernel of truth, but they go beyond the facts at hand and make claims that usually have no valid basis, (Adler & Proctor, 2011, p. 86) As stated in the book, Understanding and Managing Diversity (2009), by Harvey and Allard, some common stereotypes are portrayed through a charter role on TV. Some stereotypes that media portray are: Arabs are presented as billionaires or bombers, rarely as a victim or ordinary people. Latinos are presented as living in poverty, illegal immigrants and as criminals. Gender; Women in the network anchor positions in prime time news are very few. The message that is sent with the overpowering number of men vs. women is that women lack credibility. Video game heroes are primarily white males with females depicted as sexy and seductive and are secondary and irrelevant characters. Youth are usually portrayed in the context of crime and other at-risk behaviors. Positive images are largely absent in the media.

2 Many of the stories are about males and a racial imbalance occurs with 35 percent of the news about the white males involved in crime, compared with 52 percent for nonwhite youths. Gays that were once non-existent in the media are not very present on TV. The portrayals on TV are often presented in the extreme. They are giddy and flamboyant or traumatized by AIDS, social and emotional hardship. (pp. 245-247). Many of these stereotypes have a great potential to lead to discrimination: Which is a behavior that occurs when members of a social identity group are treated unfairly or unequally, because of their group memberships. Negative Stereotypes can be particularly problematic in the workplace because they may influence important decisions in hiring, promotions, performance appraisals, etc. (Harvey & Allard, 2009, p. 5). When we allow stereotypes to be our form of judgment about a person this often creates a communication problem. During the episode The Gay Witch Hunt on the TV show The Office, a male character, Oscar, is identified as being a gay male. Michael, the supervisor in the office was told that he made an inappropriate comment that may have been offensive to a homosexual person. Michael stated he wouldnt have said it if someone were gay in the office. He was advised that Oscar was gay and not to mention anything in the office. Michael immediately confronts Oscar and attempts to make conversation with him about being gay. Michael had never had a problem communicating with Oscar before, but now that he found out that he was gay he struggles with how to talk to him. As others find out about Oscars sexual orientation they begin to act differently around him and treat him differently. Most people are ignorant about a gay person. They make assumptions about speech, dress, and attitude to create their determination whether a person is gay or not.

3 Michael is talking with Dwight, another employee in the office, and they are trying to figure out who else is gay in the office. Dwight explains that he cant believe Oscar is gay because he is not dressed in womens clothing. Michael says, What about Angela? She is hard and severe; she could be a gay woman. They continue their conversation and Michael expresses his concern about making other comments that may be offensive if he doesnt know who is gay. Dwight suggests that Michael just not say anything offensive around the office. Michael replies with, YaI am sure everyone would appreciate me treating them like they were gay. So the assumption is that a gay person should be treated differently than a non-gay person. While this episode depicts several stereotypes about gay persons, it doesnt touch on how we view outside factors and internal factors for our successes and failures. In the book, Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership, Craig Johnson writes: because of our perceptual biases, stereotypes are particularly devastating to marginalized groups. The natural tendency is to blame our failures on outside factors and to attribute our success to internal factors. The opposite is true when we evaluate the behavior of low-status groups. When we fail short, we blame other people, bad luck, bad weather and other external forces. When we succeed, we point to our knowledge, character, skills, motivation and training. Conversely, when members of marginalized groups fail, it is their laziness, low intelligence or poor character that is to blame. When they succeed, however, we give the credit to the help they get from others rather than to their individual skills and effort (page306). While we all try to treat everyone the way we would want to be treated, stereotypes often get in the way and we often subconsciously will treat someone differently because of their

4 race, sex, religious beliefs, country of origin or sexual orientation. It is a constant battle that we fight and is only made harder for us by what the media portrays on a daily basis. The next dimension of interpersonal communication that we will explore is that of communication competence. The concept of communication competence is one that must be mastered by those individuals who wish to become successful in the field of organizational leadership. By definition, communication competence is, the ability to accomplish ones personal goals in a manner that maintains a relationship on terms that are acceptable to all parties (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p. 25). In short, one must have the ability to cater their style of communication to their intended audience. The ability to know what techniques and styles to use shows complete competence in communication. Not only must one be aware of differing groups of people such as family, work colleagues, potential clients, etc. but also take into consideration the culture of the intended audience. For example, what qualifies as competent behavior in one culture might be offensive in another. Qualities like speaking clearly and self-disclosure are welcomed in the United States culture but can be considered outrageous in Asian countries (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p. 26). The ability to communicate with other cultures requires specific attributes in order to succeed. One must be tolerant and open-minded about the customs and values of varying cultures in order to communicate effectively with them. Having a basic understanding and knowledge of the culture would also be an invaluable attribute. Successful intercultural communication competence: Requires the interactant to demonstrate an understanding of the expectations for acceptable behavior in a given situation. Appropriate communicators must recognize the constraints imposed on their behavior by a different set of rules, avoid violating those

5 rules with inappropriate responses, and enact communication behaviors in an appropriate manner (Gudyknust & Mody, 2002, p. 209). The ability to adapt ones communication style and techniques to a specific audience is an essential asset that must be acquired if one hopes to become successful in interpersonal communication. Communication competence has a number of qualities that define its characteristics. Communication competence is a skill that is situational in nature. One must vary their communication style and techniques in accordance to the situation at hand. Competence is also relational; an individual must vary their approach according to the receptiveness of the individual they are communicating with. One would approach their professor in a different manner than they would approach a life-long friend. Competence in communication can also be learned. Competence is, essentially, a skill that can be learned through various means. Taking formalized classes in communication can help to improve ones competence, but ultimately, practicing communication is the surest way to improve ones ability. As ones knowledge and experience level grows, more techniques are learned and, thus the individual has improved their competence. Once learning and growth have taken place, an individual can be considered a competent communicator. There are a number of skills and attributes a competent communicator possesses. Once faced with a challenging situation, the competent communicator can call upon one of many reactions they possess. The ability to vary their response based upon the aspects of a situation is an invaluable skill. In addition, the ability to successfully choose and execute the correct response will grant the communicator advancements that they would not attain without such skills. Also, the ability to construct varying viewpoints and empathize with others will grant the communicator an advantage over an individual who lacks these skills. If one can

6 understand and feel for their audience, they then have the knowledge that will allow them to cater to the wants and needs of their audience. Perhaps the greatest attribute a communicator can possess is the ability to care. Caring about the audience and the message makes the communicator appear sincere, seem to know what they are talking about, and demonstrate through words and deeds that they care about what they say (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p. 33). In terms of communication, there is nothing more disheartening or uninspiring than listening to a person speak about things they do not care about. The final dimension of interpersonal communication that we will explore is that of emotional expression. We have all been in situations where we have expressed our emotions in a way that was inappropriate. Expressing emotions truthfully can be complex. How can we know when it is right to express our emotions? Is it dangerous to under-express or over-express our emotions? Lets explore the answers to these questions. While nobody is the perfect communicator, there are steps we can adopt in our own lives to become better at expressing our emotions. A wide range of research supports the value of expressing emotions appropriately. At the most basic physiological level, people who know how to express their emotions are healthier than those who dont (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p.132). If we want to have a healthier lifestyle, then we must learn how to express our emotions more effectively. This serves as an excellent reminder that our emotions are directly linked to well being. The key to acceptable emotional expression is found in finding balance. There are those who have a tendency to under express their emotions and conversely there are those that over express. The key to health, then, is to learn how to express emotions constructively (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p.132). There are many ways to develop in the area of emotional expression. Lets explore some of them.

7 One way to grow in the area of emotional expression is to recognize your feelings. We must be able to identify our emotions in order to better communicate them. Using generic words such as good and bad rarely serve us well when we are in the process of expressing our emotions. The challenge is to learn to be more articulate when it comes to our feelings. Researchers have found that college students who can pinpoint the negative emotions they experience (such as nervous, angry, sad, ashamed, and guilty) also have the best strategies for managing those emotions (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p.133). Another way in which we can succeed at expressing our emotions is to recognize the differences between feeling, talking, and acting. Just because you feel a certain way doesnt mean you must always talk about it, and talking about a feeling doesnt mean you must act on it (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p.133). To be effective at interpersonal communication, we must know when it is the right time to talk and act on our feelings. Using discretion in this area can often bring success in many areas of our lives. The idea of speaking the truth because that is how we feel can be destructive in our relationships. To succeed in this area, we must be sensitive to know how we act out our feelings towards others. What may feel right to the sender may not be received the same way. Our use of empathy will help guide us to more effective emotional expression. Many times in life we experience multiple feelings. It is important to know when this occurs. When we are in a situation where we have multiple feelings, it is important to learn how to express them effectively. Unfortunately, despite the commonness of mixed emotions, we often communicate only one feeling usually the most negative one (Adler & Proctor, 2006, p.136). We must learn that all our feelings must be expressed to achieve balance in our expression of emotions.

8 The old saying There is a time and a place for everything is very applicable to the dimension of emotional expression. To improve as communicators, we must know when and where to express our feelings. Aristotle said it best: Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person to the right degree for the right purpose, and in the right way: This is not easy. How many times have we allowed our feelings to get us into trouble? Emotional control starts with being able to identify when you have entered a state of high emotion. Whether anger, sadness, or happiness, we must learn that these feelings can steer us astray if they are not checked. We must learn to separate the person from the problem. In his book Unleash Your Success, Larry Iverson postulates: If you want someone to understand what you have to say, use the same type language they do. Have your body signals align with your words. The language they use gives you a definite map of how they mentally experience the world. Mirror the visual, auditory, and kinesthetic modality they most frequently use, and youve made a major contribution toward having a good relationship (p. 107). Too many times our body language does not reflect what we are trying to say. There are times when we need to disguise how we feel. How we feel may, at times, compete with what we are trying to communicate. This can lead to misunderstandings and broken relationships. For example, telling your boss that you are extremely angry with him because you did not get the raise could prove to be counterproductive in your professional relationship. Effective communicators understand how to temper their feelings during times like these. As we have seen, there are many ways to improve as interpersonal communicators. We have covered the dimensions of stereotyping, communication competence, and emotional expression. The authors have all been personally challenged to implement the theories and

9 strategies listed to become better interpersonal communicators. We look forward to the professional and personal success that will certainly follow.

10 References Adler, R. & Proctor, R. (2011). Looking Out Looking In. Boston, MA: Wadsworth. Adler, R. & Proctor, R. (2006). Looking Out Looking In. Boston, MA: Wadsworth. Gudykunst, W, & Mody, B. (2002). Handbook of International and Intercultural Communication. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Harvey, C. & Allard, J. (2009). Understanding and Managing Diversity. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall. Iverson, L. (2009). Unleash Your Success, Volume 1. Seattle, WA: Larry Iverson PhD Johnson, C. (2009). Meeting the Ethical Challenges of Leadership-Casting Light or Shadow. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc.